With the Seattle Seahawks looking to wrap up home field advantage in the NFC playoffs this weekend, the San Francisco 49ers trying to hold on to a Wild Card spot, the Arizona Cardinals one win from a 10-win season, and the St. Louis Rams just two games under .500 with two games to play, it’s not out of the question to look at the NFC West as the best division in the NFL this season.
In 2002, the NFL went to a four-division format in each conference with four teams in each division. In the 11 years since, only three times have the four teams in a division won a combined 4o or more games in a season. In 2007, the four NFC East teams combined for 40 wins; in 2008, the four NFC South teams won 40 games. Also in 2007, the four AFC South teams won 42 games (Indianapolis, 13; Jacksonville, 11; Tennessee, 10; and Houston, eight) most since the new format was instituted back in 2002.
There’s a good chance that the NFC West this year will not only join the other three 40-win divisions, but they might match the 42 wins of the 2007 AFC South. These four teams currently have a combined 37 wins going into Week #16 games (Seattle, 12; San Francisco, 10; Arizona, nine; and St. Louis, six).
Here’s a quick look at the combined wins of each of the eight NFL divisions.
NFC West, 37
AFC West, 33
AFC East, 29
NFC South, 28
AFC North, 27
NFC North, 26
NFC East, 23
AFC South, 20
Interesting stat: Since 2002, the eventual Super Bowl champion has come from the division with the most combined wins three times… in 2002 (Tampa Bay), 2003 (New England) and 2004 (New England). Of the three divisions that had a combined 40 or more wins since 2002, only once, the NFC East in 2007, had a team win the Super Bowl, the New York Giants.
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Does it matter if an NFL team is the only team in their division to win 10 or more games? Does it matter if a team wins a divisional title by five or more games? If a team is one of three in their division to win 10 or more games, do they have a better chance to reach the Super Bowl? Do teams that win their division by one game or less (or tie for the divisional title) have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than say a team that wins their division by five or more games?
Let’s try to answer these questions. Back in 2002, the NFL went to a four-division format in each conference. That gives us 11 years of past history to analyze divisional races and how they affect the Super Bowl teams (and winners). The following stats reflect the past 11 NFL seasons, 88 different divisional races.
1. In 43 of the 88 divisional races since 20002, the race ended with only one team in the division winning 10 games or more. In 33 races, two teams in the division won 10-plus games; in nine races, none of the teams win 10-plus games; and in three races, three different teams won 10 or more games.
2. Of the 22 teams that played in the Super Bowl since 2002, exactly half (11) came from a division that had only one team with 10-plus wins; nine of the 22 came from a division with two 10-plus win teams. Two teams came from a conference that had no team winning 10 or more games. Since 2002, none of the three divisions that had three teams with 10-plus wins has made it to the Super Bowl.
3. Seven of the 11 Super Bowl champs since 2002 came from a division with two teams with 10 or more wins.
4. Fifty-six of the 88 division races since 2002 (63.6 percent) finished in a tie or the first place team won the division by two games or less over the second place team. Eighteen teams since 2002 won their division by five games or more over the runner-up.
5. The last three Super Bowl champs came from divisions that were decided by one game or less.
6. Teams that won their division by one game or less are 5-2 in the Super Bowl since 2002. Teams that won their division by 1.5 to four games are 6-3 in the Super Bowl. Teams that won their division by five or more games are 0-6 in the Super Bowl in the last 11 years.
Week 13 had two games go into overtime: The Vikings beat the Bears 23-20, and the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Buffalo Bills 34-31. For the Falcons, it was their first overtime win on the road since September 26, 2010.
Through games of December 1, there have been 13 overtime games in the NFL this season. One ended in a tie, and the home team has won nine of the other 12 OT contests.
In 2012, there 21 regular-season overtime games in the NFL. Of those 21, the home team won 11 of them. There was also an overtime game in the playoffs; that was won by the away team (Baltimore) as they knocked the Denver Broncos out of the playoffs on their home field on a Justin Tucker 47-yard field goal in double overtime.
One of the more interesting overtime games last season was on December 2. The Seattle Seahawks were on the road facing the Chicago Bears. The Seahawks won the game 23-17 in Chicago in overtime. It was the first victory in a five-game winning streak that propelled the Seahawks to an 11-win season and a spot in the playoffs.
But another reason that game was noteworthy was that it was the first overtime win on the road for the Seahawks in almost 10 years. Prior to that win in Chicago, the last time Seattle won an overtime game on the road was December 29, 2002 when they beat the Chargers 31-28 in an overtime game in San Diego.
The current longest drought for a road overtime win belongs to the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has not won an overtime game on the road since December 2, 2001.
With that in mind, here is the last time each team won an overtime game on the road.
Last overtime game won on the road, team
10-23-2003: New England
11-27-2005: St. Louis
10-29-2007: Green Bay
12-9-2007: San Diego
9-14-2008: San Francisco
1-22-2012: New York Giants
9-23-2012: Kansas City
9-23-2012: New York Jets
11-18-2012: Tampa Bay
12-23-2012: New Orleans
Of the three teams that have this season won OT games on the road, two of those road OT victories came at the expense of the Buffalo Bills (both Cincinnati and Atlanta beat Buffalo in OT on the Bills’ home field). The Bills became the 11th team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have lost two overtime games at home in a season. Following are those teams:
Lost two overtime games at home in a season
2003: Tampa Bay
2002: Minnesota, Oakland
1993: New England
1987: New England
1983: Green Bay, Houston Oilers, Tampa Bay
1979: New England
Week #9 of the 2013 NFL season saw a pair of overtime games. The Seattle Seahawks won their second OT game of the year by defeating the Tampa Bay Bucs, and the Washington Redskins beat San Diego in overtime.
There have been seven overtime games this season with the home team winning five of those games. Last season there were 21 OT games with the home teams winning 11 and losing 10.
Cincinnati, Houston and Seattle have each played in two overtime games this year; the Texans and Bengals have each won one and lost one, while the Seahawks have won both of their OT games.
Going back to 2000, there have been 216 regular-season overtime games in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers have played in the most games with 20, while the New England Patriots and New York Giants are tied for the best record in OT games since 2000 with a .692 winning percentage (each team is 9-4 in overtime).
Here’s a look at each NFL team’s record in overtime games since 2000.
New England: 9-4 .692
New York Giants: 9-4 .692
Chicago: 10-5 .667
Indianapolis: 4-2 .667
St. Louis: 8-4-1 .654
Arizona: 11-6 .647
Washington: 11-6 .647
San Francisco: 12-7-1 .625
Denver: 10-6 .625
Baltimore: 8-6 .571
New York Jets: 10-8 .556
Jacksonville: 6-5 .545
New Orleans: 6-5 .545
Oakland: 6-5 .545
Seattle: 7-6 .538
Dallas: 9-8 .529
Buffalo: 7-7 .500
Tennessee: 7-7 .500
Green Bay 5-5 .500
Pittsburgh: 8-10-1 .447
Cincinnati: 3-5-1 .389
Detroit: 5-8 .385
Atlanta: 6-10-1 .382
Tampa Bay: 6-10 .375
Minnesota: 4-7 .364
Kansas City: 6-11 .353
Philadelphia: 3-6-1 .350
San Diego: 5-10 .333
Houston: 4-8 .333
Miami: 4-8 .333
Cleveland: 4-9 .308
Carolina: 3-8 .273
Note: The Denver Broncos and New York Giants have the longest active streak of OT wins with five each. Oakland has won four straight overtime games. The Carolina Panthers have lost five straight OT games, the longest active losing streak. Jacksonville, Green Bay and San Diego have each lost four straight overtime games.
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If you would have told Seattle head coach Pete Carroll that his Seahawks would only collect 135 yards in total offense in their October 28 game against the St. Louis Rams, he might have responded, “How bad did we get beat?”
Fortunately for Carroll and the Seahawks, Seattle was still able to come away with a 14-9 win despite the dismal offensive display. Consider this: Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had almost two-and-half-times more yards in his record-setting game on Sunday than the Seattle offense had on Monday night. Johnson, in his 329-yards receiving game against the Cowboys had more yards last Sunday than 16 NFL teams in Week 8! But let’s get back to Seattle.
You would think that having less than 135 yards in total offense would not be a good omen. The Seahawks’ win was only the 28th time since 1970 (AFL-NFL merger) that a team with 135 or fewer total yards of offense won a game. The last time it happened was in 2010 when the Miami Dolphins amassed only 131 total yards of offense in a 10-6 win over the New York Jets. Since 2000, teams with 135 or fewer yards of offense in a game have won 13 and lost 60 (a .178 winning percentage).
Let’s expand the parameters a little. Let’s take a look at how well teams have done when they have gained less than 200 total yards in a game since 2000. There have been 468 times since 2000 that an NFL team had less than 200 yards of offense in a contest; in those games, that team won only 67 times, a .143 winning percentage. The Cleveland Browns had the most games with less than 200 yards of offense since 2000 with 37. They won only one of those games.
Here are the number of games each team had less than 200 yards of total offense in a game since 2000. Their record in those games is listed in parenthesis.
Cleveland: 37 games with less than 200 yards of offense (1-36 record in those games)
San Francisco: 28 games (4-24)
Buffalo: 25 games (3-22)
Chicago: 24 games (5-19)
Arizona: 22 games (5-17)
Oakland: 21 games (2-19)
Carolina: 19 games (2-17)
Cincinnati: 19 games (1-18)
Seattle: 19 games (4-15)
Baltimore: 18 games (7-11)
New York Jets: 17 games (1-16)
St. Louis: 17 games (2-15)
Detroit: 15 games (2-13)
Houston: 15 games (3-12)
Miami: 15 games (5-10)
Tennessee: 15 games (6-9)
Washington: 15 games (1-14)
Tampa Bay: 14 games (3-11)
Dallas: 13 games (1-12)
Kansas City: 12 games (1-11)
Philadelphia: 12 games (1-11)
Atlanta: 11 games (0-11)
Jacksonville: 10 games (1-9)
Minnesota: 9 games (2-7)
San Diego: 9 games (1-8)
New York Giants: 8 games (0-8)
Pittsburgh: 8 games (2-6)
New England: 7 games (1-6)
Indianapolis: 6 games (0-6)
Denver: 3 games (0-3)
Green Bay: 3 games (0-3)
New Orleans: 2 games (0-2)
There have been five games since 1970 where a team gained less than 100 yards of offense and still won the game. The five games:
* Tennessee over Jacksonville, 24-17 in 2006. Titans had 98 offensive yards.
* Oakland over Pittsburgh, 20-13 in 2006. Raiders had 98 offensive yards.
* Houston over Pittsburgh, 24-6 in 2002. Texans had 47 offensive yards.
* San Francisco over Atlanta, 10-3 in 1977. Forty-Niners had 97 offensive yards.
* Minnesota over Green Bay, 3-0 in 1971. Vikings had 87 offensive yards.
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